Archive for January, 2009

activating your “wealth corner”

January 16, 2009

Ok, I hear you looking at this page and saying to yourself, what on earth is a wealth corner?  Well, let’s back up and let me share with you a little bit about feng shui.  At its most basic, feng shui is about creating balance in your home and workspace. It addresses the need to energize your dwelling spaces – where you eat, sleep, work, play – so that more good things can flow into your life.

This week launches a series of conversations with my friend, feng shui master Kate MacKinnon. She trained in the form of feng shui from China called the BTB School, as taught by the feng shui master, Professor Lin Yun.

Today’s conversation centers around activating your “wealth corner”.  In the school of feng shui that Kate practices, as you enter through the front door, the far left corner of your home is your wealth corner. This same position, the far left corner from the entry door, is also the location of the wealth corner in each room of your home, and your office.

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a feng shui diagram of your “wealth corner”

So, for those of you who are considering creating a home office, the far left corner of your home would be an ideal location for it.  And if your bedroom happens to be in that area, this is good, simply place a lovely green plant in the wealth corner.  However often the existing architecture of one’s home, prevents the installation of an office in that far left corner . . . your kitchen, for instance, may already be there, or your bathroom, or a stairwell.  Feng shui has solutions for these architectural impediments to the flow of chi, or energy, through your dwelling.  Since every room has a wealth corner, a feng shui master would work within those spaces to improve the flow of energy through them.

Here are a few things that you can do to “activate” or “energize” your wealth corner:

1. The placement of your desk – facing the doorway of your office is the best position.  Make sure it is not directly in line with the doorway but is either to the left or right of it.

2. Placing a beautiful tree or plant in your “wealth corner” is a great addition.  Plants represent money.  Of course, make sure that it is a big, healthy green plant.  A few examples of possible plant choices are money trees, bamboo plants, or ficus trees. And remember to water them! Whatever you do, don’t let them languish!

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Jade plant, in flower

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Lucky Bamboo

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Sea Grape, beautiful round foliage

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Takashimaya vases (these look like plants, so can also be used)

3. Another good idea is to have ‘moving water” (ie. a water element or fountain) in this location, as it is a great way to energize wealth.

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4. And, lastly, mirrors are a way to expand energy.  If possible, put a mirror in your wealth corner. Maybe place it on the left wall – if it can be centered there, that is ideal, but anywhere that makes sense on the wall is great.  Alternatively, let’s say you have a view of the river, put a mirror there to reflect the water into your space.

Additional thoughts from Kate!

She emphasizes that, in feng shui, intention is everything.  In other words, as you are working on your wealth corner, visualize what you want to bring into your life – maybe a bigger apartment, more money, a promotion or bonus, a better job or even a new career, a new car, new furniture, a gianormous TV with surround sound… remember, this is about your wealth and prosperity so the clearer your vision, the more command you will have over creating it.

Kate has been in banking for 20 years and for 14 of those years she was a management consultant.  She was certified in feng shui in 2001 and works in both homes and businesses.  As we were starting our session today, she remarked to me that she has lately been working more with businesses, as many companies use Feng Shui, even Donald Trump!

If you have any questions, please post them to blog and Kate will answer them.

blog editing by Lacy Waltzman, a friend and screenwriter in los angeles
you can find her at blondeplanet.blogspot.com

the top 5 kitchen utensils, part one

January 8, 2009

For this post I interviewed my friend and chef Gretchen Young.  She is a chef for William’s Sonoma’s store at Columbus Circle and personal chef for a bachelor in New York City.  I will share her top picks for kitchen utensils and equipment over the next few months.

So to begin, this month’s top 5 kitchen utensils.  The things you simply cannot live without.

ONE Pepper mill (and Salt mill if you are so inclined)

Peugot Chateauneuf Adjustable Salt & Pepper Mills

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Did you know that the French car maker Peugot also makes world class pepper mills? The mechanism was created in the 1840s and this same engineering has been the best since then! Sleek and shapely, this traditional grinder is top quality and comes with a lifetime guarantee.

Mini Salt/Pepper Mills

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Let’s say you don’t have a lot of space on your counter, yet you still want fresh pepper or salt on your plate. Try the “Pump N Grind!” In one hand, hold down with your thumb and pump away. No adjustment possible to the coarseness of the grind.  Salt and pepper grinders fit easily in utensil drawer.

TWO Utensil Set

All Clad Utensil Set

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Oxo Utensil Set

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While I prefer All Clad’s stainless tool set, this set has a bit of everything and it is non-stick which means that you do not scratch your pots and pans (something I do not seem to worry about, but does seem to stress out others).


THREE
Wooden Spoons

Beechwood Spoons

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You’ve invested a lot of energy equipping your kitchen. Now it’s about the maintenance. Wooden spoons are the way to go when cooking. They will not scratch metal pans, clean up is easy and there is no scraping. Save the metal spoons for serving. Just remember not to toss wood spoons in the dishwasher.

Batali Wooden Spoons

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A wooden spoon is a basic and beautiful tool to have in your kitchen.  When I pull out my wooden spoons I recall fond moments of watching  images chef’s and home cooks the world over I have watched in their kitchens.  Gretchen likes the beechwood spoons, I love the lines of the Batali spoons.

FOUR Measuring Tools

All Clad Standard Cups & Spoons

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Heavy stainless measuring cups and spoons. All-Clad makes wonderful tools for the kitchen. They are perfect for recipes that call for “scoop and sweep” methods. And they won’t rust. Gotta love that.

OXO Angled Measuring Cup

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The OXO Angled Measuring Cup is another item on the “must have” list. No more raising the measuring cup to eye level to figure out just how much is in one of these things. Just pour liquid into the cup and read levels instantly. Dishwasher safe. Colorful and easy to read.

As for the dry measuring utensils vs. wet measuring utensils.  As Gretchen remarked to me, you cannot use one in lieu of the other, dry ingredients and liquids are volumetricaly dissimilar.


FIVE
Microplane Grater

Microplane Zester Grater

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No more scraping your knuckles with a box grater. This brilliant, versatile tool is used for lemon/lime zest (you’d be surprised how many uses you can find for zesting), for Parmesan cheese and chocolate shavings (on those nights you want to make dinner special for your honey).  Rinses clean, dishwasher safe.

Microplane Grater-Zester without Grip

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This is my favorite, though Gretchen claims that men will like the one above more as she finds it easier to handle.  They both do the same job and do it beautifully.
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Gretchen Young has a culinary career that stretches over 10 years, having satisfied high profile individuals, restaurants, small businesses and non-profit groups through a catering business, cake design studio and as a private chef. She has taught cooking classes at Williams-Sonoma in the Time Warner Center at Columbus Circle and the Whole Foods Bowery Culinary Education Center. During the Fragrance Foundation’s 2006 Fragrance Week, she partnered with Takasago Perfumerie and Bacardi to create a multi-sensory experience of food, cocktails and scent. She earned an MBA from the University of Michigan and was trained at the Institute of Culinary Education.

cleaning out your closets, making space for the New Year!

January 2, 2009

Happy 2009!   I hope you had a glorious New Year’s Eve!

This weeks’ post is about cleaning out your closets to make way for the new energy and opportunities the New Year has in store for you.  Last month I was making dinner at a friend’s home.  I had cooked at his apartment a number of times and while I tried to be zen about the clutter and disorganization in his kitchen, I just could not handle it that evening.  So as dinner was cooking I tackled the pantry, in the space of 45 minutes the whole thing was organized and orderly.  I had a great sense of accomplishment.  My friend was elated!  And subsequently he began tackling his other closets throughout his home.  A few days later he told me of his adventures in cleaning and said “I feel better, I feel lighter from cleaning my closets and throwing out all the old clutter.”

In conversation with my friend and Feng Shui consultant, Melissa Heebink, she asked some pertinent questions that you might ask yourself while you are cleaning out your closets.  “Are your closets overflowing?  If so, what are you holding onto?  Are you hanging onto things from old relationships?”  She also remarked, “If you have clutter in your home and your closets, it will impact your financial arena blocking money. new energy and relationships from coming in to our life.”  And lastly she said, “Make sure that your closet doors are always closed.”

Melissa recommends the book “Clearing your Clutter with Feng Shui” Karen Kingston

The to do list is fairly short –
1.  Organizing your closest means first culling through what you have and getting rid of old, unused items.
2. Throw out or donate clothes that you have not worn in a year or two and whatever else you can possibly part with.
3. If you are also cleaning out your hall closet, do you really need all those old tennis rackets? And sneakers that don’t fit?
4. Either throw out or have repaired anything that is broken or in need of mending.
5. Call and make an appointment with a consultant if you are hiring a full service company to design, manufacture and install your new closets.
6. If you are going to install the new closets yourself or you are buying the closet interiors and then separately hiring an installer you will need to  –
a. Measure the length/depth/height of your closet and note the door swing.
b. You will need to measure the linear inches of clothing you have – ie. you have X number of inches of hanging pants, shirts and suits, etc.

Closet Manufacturers  –

$$$$ B&B Italia

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B&B Italia is a favorite manufacturer of mine.  They produce sublimely beautiful furniture and cabinetry in Italy.  You will need to be working with an Interior Designer or an Architect to order from them and once designed and ordered, your closets will be delivered in 12 – 16 weeks.  Their closets are furniture grade.

$$$   Poliform

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Poliform has their own designers who can assist you in the design of your new closets.  They are a US based company.  They design, manufacture and install their closet systems.  Once design is complete it will take from 12 – 16 weeks for the receipt and installation of your closets.

$$    Your local cabinetmaker

There are several ways to tackle this approach.  You can ask a few of your friends for recommendations for local cabinetmakers that they have used and had successful projects with.  You can also go to a site like the Franklin Report and cull through their recommendations.  Some cabinetmakers prepare their own drawings, if so there will be a small additional charge for this.  Others will do it off the back of a napkin, this is not the best means by which to get custom cabinetry because without a signed and approved set of drawings by you, they can build whatever they want.  And others will require you to have drawings prepared by your own designer.  If you choose to hire a local cabinetmaker, please make sure to procure three bids for the same design layout.

$       Elfa Closets from the Container Store

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Elfa Closets are an easy and quick solution.  I have found that the closet consultants at the Container Store are knowledgeable and helpful.  With your closet measurements and some idea of the linear footage of your clothing, they will prepare computer generated drawings and your order very quickly and have all the components delivered in a week or so.  Along with your order they provide drawings for the installation of your new closets.  You will need to hire your own installer or install them yourself.

Please post your comments and questions.